Tom Brady said he knew before the start of the 2019 season that it would be his final one in a 20-year career with the New England Patriots.
“I don’t think there was a final, final decision before it happened," Brady said Wednesday during an interview on the Howard Stern Show. “But I would say I probably knew before the start of last season that it was my last year. I knew that our time was coming to an end.”
For more than two hours, in a provocative and deeply probing interview by Stern on Sirius Radio, Brady did not hold back. He talked about his split with the Patriots, and decision to move to Tampa Bay and join the Bucs. He described what it’s like living in Derek Jeter’s house and why he keeps playing, Brady also talked about his marriage to Gisele Bundchen, including how his wife wrote him a letter two years ago saying she was unhappy in their relationship, prompting the couple to seek counseling.
It is clear that not playing for the Patriots has given Brady a stronger voice and control of his own career, and he is using it.
Want to learn more about Brady? The highlights from this interview will help.
On his relationship with Belichick
“He and I have had a lot of conversations that nobody has ever been privy to and nor should they be, that so many wrong assumptions were made about our relationship or how he felt about me. I know genuinely how he feels about me.
"Before last season I had a contract that got restructured and basically from my standpoint I knew I was going to become a free agent for the first time in my career. I had spoken about it with the ownership of the team, Mr. (Robert) Kraft, I had spoken with Coach Belichick, he was good with it. That’s what we decided to do.
“We both thought about it and in the end, it was just a great way to end two decades. There’s no bigger fan of the New England Patriot organization than me. ... I want to prove to myself I can still perform at the highest level."
On moving to Tampa Bay and renting Derek Jeter’s mansion on Davis Islands
“It’s been great. I can see why a lot of people live here. We’ve got a beautiful view overlooking the bay and it’s been 85 degrees, so that part is certainly good. But this is a nice time to be here. It’s going to get hot. There’s a lot of different things from the northeast to the southeast, so I’ll get used to all those things.
"I’m going to stay here for a while because I had to find a place on really short notice and (Jeter’s) been a friend of mine. We just talked and it all worked out because he’s living in Miami and owns part of a baseball team there. So, um, it just worked out perfect for me being here and kind of get my life started here.
“When I lived in Chestnut Hill, I was pretty private for a long time so I forgot in a way how people could drive up to your house because people couldn’t drive up to my house when I lived in Chestnut Hill. But here, they can pull right up and in the back of the house, so Derek did a pretty good job of screening it. I’m a little bit of an introvert. I feel like my house is kind of the place where I can relax. You know, when you walk outside the house, you understand everything that goes along with being me. And I think part of it is when I come home, I want to be able to let my guard down and relax, but this is a little different when you go out to the backyard, there’s a lot of folks that have pulled up and people out front. It’s a little different."
(What happens if something isn’t working?)
“I call (Jeter), I bitch to him and he gets it fixed.”
On why he chose the Bucs
“I kind of wrote down about 20 different things that were important to me, and I prioritized what was important. And then I kind of scaled it back and I looked at all the different opportunities that were out there and you know, there’s a family decision. My son Jack is in New York and in the end, being close to him was really important.
“Playing with really good players is important. I’ve obviously had that with the Patriots forever but I wanted to continue to play with great players. Coaching was important. It’s the first time that I’m playing in, like, a warm climate, which I thought was pretty great.
“I really believe I can help any organization and that’s why I signed up to play. ... There were probably a lot of different teams that were interested, I would say.
“I wanted to make a decision where I thought I could really excel as a player. That’s what it came down to. Where could I really excel and achieve and bring my best out. ... I chose this one, and time will tell what kind of decision that was made. All I know is what I can put into it."
On Bucs coach Bruce Arians
“I like him a lot. I think part of the reason I chose being out here, there were a lot of reasons, even me being a free agent, I learned so much about having the opportunity to evaluate what were the priorities were for me. Coaching obviously was important, and it’s usually important. His name is Bruce Arians and he’s been a long-time coach and you know, he has a different way about him, but it’s authentic to him and I think the best thing for a coach to be a coach is to be authentic to who you are. He’s definitely someone who tells you straight, which I appreciate that too. I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to get to know him yet."
On connecting with teammates
“You’ve got to find ways to connect on different levels with different guys. And even now, I’ll be 43 this year, you know, a lot of my teammates will be 22, so I’ve got to connect with the 22-year-olds and I’ve got to find things we can share and have fun in and I think that’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed about team sports.
“Now if a guy is not giving great effort or he’s being an (jerk), I can talk to him about that. I would put it a different way. My leadership is more about connecting with someone instead of calling him out in front of my teammates.
“I would say I don’t have any trust this guy can help us win the game. I would definitely express my opinion to say, ‘If you put him out there, I’m not going to throw him the ball because the whole team is trusting me to do what’s right by the team so you can’t put someone out there I don’t believe in because if I don’t believe in him, then it’s worthless for the team.'"
On why he’s still playing at age 42 after winning six Super Bowls
“I think if you’ve learned anything from what’s going on this day and age, even as it relates to Kobe Bryant, Kobe thought he had a long life, too, you know. I loved watching Kobe play. I think in a lot of ways, he and I had the same mentality. And we had a great connection because of our mind-set, and as I look at his life, we all think we’re going to live forever, but the reality is we don’t know when our day is going to come.
“I could sit here and say stop playing football and worry about what’s going to happen or worry about this or that. Instead of saying, ‘Why don’t I live my life the way I want, the way that will be most fulfilling to me.' You don’t tell a musician stop singing at the age of 42. You don’t tell a great painter stop painting at 42. Now if you want to stop, stop. Go ahead."
On life with Gisele Bundchen and seeking counseling
“At different times, like any married couple, things need to be changed. And there was a couple years ago, she didn’t feel like I was doing my part for the family. She felt like I would play football all season and she would take care of the house and all of the sudden, when the season ended, I was like, ‘Oh, great, let me get into all my other business activities. Let me get into my football training’ and she’s sitting there going, ‘Well, when are you going to do things for the house? When are you going to take the kids to school and do that.’
"And that was a big part of our marriage. I had to check myself because she’s like, ‘I have goals and dreams, too. So you better start taking care of things at the house.’
“My family, the situation wasn’t great. She wasn’t satisfied with our marriage. You think a relationship is great because it only works for you and the part of a relationship is it has to work for both.
“She actually wrote me a letter. ... It was a very heartfelt letter to say this is where we are in our marriage. It’s a good reminder for me things are going to change and evolve over time. What worked for us 10 years ago won’t work for us forever because we’re growing."
On whether he’s encountered division in the locker room over race
Stern asked if Brady had a “racial self-consciousness” and whether he felt “guilt” for being the leader of the team of predominately African American players.
“Never. Never once have I felt like that’s the point. I never saw race. I think sports transcends race. It transcends wealth. It transcends all that. You get to know and appreciate what someone else may bring. ... When you’re in a locker room with 50 guys, you don’t think about race because you’re all the same at that point. It doesn’t matter who’s married or who’s single. Who has kids or who doesn’t have kids. White, black. Whatever it is, you figure out how to get along. Sports teaches you about life in that way. It’s very natural.''
On what we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic
“No one can predict the future. My strong beliefs are … how do I approach this? I try to use the same common sense that I’ve had playing football all these years. You can’t control all the external things that are happening. The only thing you can control is what you’re doing for yourself, which, wha you’re putting into your body to keep your immune system strong. I wished that was part of our conversation. Why don’t we talk about the food companies adding less sugar to all our foods? You know, why are we so threatened all the time. Why are we so dependent on waiting to get sick before thinking about the way to get better."